Legal Business

After downsizing Germany Orrick bucks trend with Geneva launch as US firm bolsters arbitration credentials

After downsizing Germany Orrick bucks trend with Geneva launch as US firm bolsters arbitration credentials

Having recently shut two out of four of its German offices as it refocuses its European strategy, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is opening a new base in Geneva to build its arbitration presence on the continent with the hire of Vanessa Liborio from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Disputes partner Vanessa Liborio Garrido de Sousa will head the new office that will focus solely on arbitration. She will work closely with the firm’s wider arbitration team in France and German including partners Jean-Pierre Martel, Charles Kaplan, Laurent Jaeger, Laurie Craig in Paris and co-practice group leader Siegfried Elsing in Dusseldorf.

The new office is in line with the firm’s strategy to focus on three sectors – technology, energy and infrastructure, and finance – with a focus on its dispute and transactional practices.

‘Many firms are thinking about pulling back in Geneva but for us it’s a logical market to be in based on Vanessa’s skillset and the focus of her clients,’ said Orrick chairman Mitchell Zuklie. ‘We already have a strong litigation practice in the US, and arbitration is strong in Paris and Dusseldorf and a presence in Geneva is crucial for further growth in Europe.’

Although Geneva is traditionally seen as the Swiss centre for private client work, it has enjoyed a long-held tradition for having an arbitration-friendly judicial system along with Paris, New York and London. Orrick said that Geneva was particularly attractive because of its ‘political neutrality and arbitration friendliness’.

Liborio added: ‘I was drawn by Orrick’s global commitment to dispute resolution. The firm’s focus on energy and infrastructure, and finance, its role in some of the most important cross-border matters in France and across Europe and the integrated nature of its practice all make it a very attractive platform for international arbitration.’

Liborio leaves Akin Gump after five years before which she was a senior associate at legacy firm Hogan & Hartson from 2005 to 2010. She has acted as counsel in proceedings before the International Chamber of Commerce, the London Court of International Arbitration, and the Swiss Chambers of Commerce. She has experience of advising on disputes involving infrastructure, joint venture agreements, sales of goods, collateral management agreements, insurance, aviation and consultancy agreements.

The office launch comes after the San Francisco-bred law firm cut its German network by half, leaving its offering in Europe’s largest economy with two remaining branches in Düsseldorf and Munich. The firm’s largest office outside of the States is in Paris with around 90 fee-earners followed by London which houses 70.

jaishree.kalia@legalaese.co.uk

Legal Business

Placed in the ‘bad bank’: Quinn Emanuel, Akin Gump and Bird & Bird lead on $835m Espirito loan dispute

Placed in the ‘bad bank’: Quinn Emanuel, Akin Gump and Bird & Bird lead on $835m Espirito loan dispute

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Bird & Bird have been gifted lead instructions in two separate suits by Goldman Sachs and a group of investors on an $835m loan repayment dispute taken against Pinsent Masons’ client Portuguese bank Novo Banco at London’s High Court.

Quinn Emanuel’s London co-managing partner Richard East and Akin Gump restructuring specialist James Roome have been instructed on the first investor/lender suit, while local counsel is being provided by PLMJ’s head of banking and finance Hugh Rosa Ferreira. Meanwhile, Bird & Bird’s London disputes head Steven Baker was selected by Goldman Sachs to represent the investment bank in the second case.

Pinsent Masons is representing Novo Banco in the dispute with a team including partner Stuart McNeill and national head of banking and finance litigation Michael Isaacs.

The disputes relate to a special purpose vehicle, Oak Finance Luxembourg, which was created by Goldman Sachs to raise funds for Banco Espirito Santo (BES), a Portuguese bank based in Lisbon, for the purpose of financing an oil refinery in Venezuela.

However, in August 2014, Portugal’s central bank announced a €4.4bn bailout of BES that brought about its split into two banks: Novo Banco, which kept healthy operations, and a remaining ‘bad bank’ to keep toxic assets. As a result creditors, including the claimants whose loans were not transferred to the healthy bank, are expected to face significant losses and the loan unlikely to be repaid.

The first suit, which comprises 12 claimants including businessman Paul Singer’s hedge fund Elliott International, argues that the Bank of Portugal’s subsequent decision in December 2014 not to transfer the Oak Finance loan to Novo Banco was ‘based on incomplete and inaccurate information’.

It further added: ‘The Oak Finance investors do not accept that the Bank of Portugal had any legal grounds justifying the December 2014 decision. Although the Bank of Portugal has since been provided with facts that would require it to reverse its December decision, the Bank has refused to do so, instead referring these matters to be determined by a court.’

Damages claimed in the first suit between all 12 claimants total around $613m. Details about the Goldman Sachs suit have not yet been released by the London court.

Firms which last year landed high profile instructions on the break-up of the troubled Portuguese lender included Linklaters and Allen & Overy, with the former acting for BES and Novo Banco and the latter instructed by the central bank.

sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

The Third Wave – high stakes City deals for Akin and Cooley highlight changing tactics

With Akin Gump and Cooley securing multimillion-pound teams, a wave of new entrants to the City are re-writing the playbook for expansion in London. What is driving the new breed?

Sitting in the airport lounge at Fort Worth, Texas, flicking through magazines and eating stale sandwiches, 25 maintenance staff waited to board flights to London, Frankfurt and Hong Kong. While they were less than thrilled to be spending their weekends rewiring computers, moving desks and changing security codes for a bunch of lawyers thousands of miles from home, the woman who sent them was jubilant, having just pulled off the deal that would reposition her law firm as a genuine international player.

Legal Business

The Third Wave – high stakes City deals for Akin and Cooley highlight changing tactics

The Third Wave – high stakes City deals for Akin and Cooley highlight changing tactics

With Akin Gump and Cooley securing multimillion-pound teams, a wave of new entrants to the City are re-writing the playbook for expansion in London. What is driving the new breed?

Sitting in the airport lounge at Fort Worth, Texas, flicking through magazines and eating stale sandwiches, 25 maintenance staff waited to board flights to London, Frankfurt and Hong Kong. While they were less than thrilled to be spending their weekends rewiring computers, moving desks and changing security codes for a bunch of lawyers thousands of miles from home, the woman who sent them was jubilant, having just pulled off the deal that would reposition her law firm as a genuine international player.

Legal Business

James Roome: ‘There’s a crisis in law but not the one many claim’

James Roome: ‘There’s a crisis in law but not the one many claim’

Ever since the start of the financial crisis you haven’t had to look very far to find expert opinion pieces predicting the end of growth for law firms. The observer will tell you that this is because of the commoditisation of transactional services, the pressure of client expectations of price, staffing and delivery, new entrants in the market, cyclical downturns in the economy, challenging career paths, anti-social hours and so on.

But I consider this an overly pessimistic view based not so much on predictions of the future as on the fallout from the financial crisis. The legal profession continues to be a dynamic industry offering interesting and rewarding opportunities, particularly for younger lawyers.

If you were considering a career in the law and did your due diligence, you might wonder what you were letting yourself in for. Popular examples include Bruce MacEwen’s 2013 book Growth Is Dead: Now What?: Law firms on the brink, Richard Susskind’s 2010 book The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the nature of legal services and Steven J Harper’s 2013 book The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in crisis, to name just three.

These gloomy prognoses capture the zeitgeist. However, I would argue that the problem lies not so much in the future as the past.

Much of the extraordinary growth at the top end of the legal industry in the period leading up to the financial crisis came from growing demand for debt origination and repackaging. Each CDO, CLO, SIV and so on involved wholesale repackaging of hundreds of millions of dollars of mortgages and other loans.

Despite the astronomic numbers involved, margins were tiny, leading to pricing pressure and commoditisation. This, in turn, led to impossible client expectations and limited potential for growth in these areas. Indeed it remains hard to see growth here, even now, after six years of attrition.

And that may well be a good thing. There is little more tragic than to see squadrons of exceptionally gifted young people with fabulous degrees working inhuman hours in order to churn out standard form documents in the small hours of the night.

So don’t worry about the prophets of doom. They make their predictions on the assumptions that the problems they identify apply to the whole of the legal profession and that the problems must continue in future.

While they’re right that global law firms will be challenged to generate further top-line revenue growth in a saturated market, it doesn’t follow that there isn’t an exciting legal career for a young lawyer to embrace.

Flexible, strategic and focused practices today offer exciting legal careers and opportunities. Away from the commoditised transactional practices, there is far more high-value advisory work, litigation and corporate transactional work in London today than there was 20 years ago. This work is more interesting than the commoditised work – more challenging, more satisfying and more rewarding.

James Roome is London co-head at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

For more comment from industry leaders – see Nigel Boardman arguing that English law needs reform

Legal Business

A crisis in law but not the one many claim

A crisis in law but not the one many claim

Akin Gump restructuring veteran James Roome argues those seeing a threat to the legal industry have mis-read the markets

Ever since the start of the financial crisis you haven’t had to look very far to find expert opinion pieces predicting the end of growth for law firms. The observer will tell you that this is because of the commoditisation of transactional services, the pressure of client expectations of price, staffing and delivery, new entrants in the market, cyclical downturns in the economy, challenging career paths, anti-social hours and so on.

Legal Business

Building a base: Akin Gump launches London trainee scheme

Building a base: Akin Gump launches London trainee scheme

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is launching its first trainee scheme outside of the US in a move that will see it expand the programme established by the London office of Bingham McCutchen it recently consumed.

Following the move of 28 partners from Bingham McCutchen, Akin Gump’s enlarged London office is set to establish a programme that will induct five trainees across the next two years.

The scheme will see intakes in September 2015 and 2016, while a summer work placement programme will launch shortly for June 2015. The deadline for placement applications and Akin Gump’s training contract application process for 2017 will be 31 July 2015.

The London trainee programme will be overseen by the office’s new co-head James Roome (pictured), who set up the trainee scheme at Bingham in 2006. That office, before combining with Akin Gump, had been taking on three trainees a year.

Roome told Legal Business: ‘You need a base size before you can properly support and give good training. Our greater size here meant that we had been able to develop and support the structures for a successful training scheme. With the combined operation, we’re now looking for trainees outside the normal recruitment cycle to allow us to grow our programme to the larger scale the office can now support.’

Plans are in place to make the trainee programme more international, with London-based trainees and associates set to be able to secure secondments to overseas offices including Hong Kong which is also gaining a training scheme transferred from Bingham.

Kim Koopersmith, chair at Akin Gump, said: ‘We plan to work off the base set up by the London team who have joined us from Bingham. The team has had a lot of ideas on how to use the trainee programme to build the talent base and we look forward to capitalising on that.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Targeting Europe: James Roome set for a place on Akin Gump’s global board

Targeting Europe: James Roome set for a place on Akin Gump’s global board

London-based restructuring guru James Roome, who carried a 28-partner team from Bingham McCutchen to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld this summer, is set to boost the European presence on Akin’s global management committee.

Roome (pictured), who became the co-head of the Akin Gump office alongside Sebastian Rice following the combination, is due to start a three-year term at the start of the New Year.

Akin Gump has a simple management structure with one global board – called the management committee – and Roome will not need to be elected as partners are appointed by recommendation of the existing board members. Legal Business understands that a number of partners’ three-year terms on the 15-member management are set to end in the coming months and Roome’s position has already been confirmed internally. London-based Daniel Walsh also currently sits on the management committee which is headed by Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith, who replaced longstanding chief Bruce McLean at the start of 2013.

The firm has indicated that the London merger, which also saw lawyers in Hong Kong and Frankfurt transfer from Bingham McCutchen to Akin Gump, will be used as a springboard for expansion in Europe and Asia and Roome’s addition to the management committee will help guide that growth. The launch of a German office through the addition of Bingham’s Frankfurt partners took the firm up to eight offices outside of the US, with much of the firm’s international focus having been in Asia.

Koopersmith told Legal Business: ‘We have not finalised the composition for 2015, but James will definitely have a place on the management committee.’

She added: ‘The plan is that James will join the management committee at the start of the New Year and we don’t have to do anything structural for that to happen. Our management committee does not have slots reserved for people from different geographies but one of the driving criteria is a diversity of viewpoint so the collection of people on the management at any one time will be practice, regionally and seniority diverse.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

The $50m question – will Akin Gump’s record-breaking City acquisition pay off?

There was a rushed engagement before the union and there is unlikely to be a long honeymoon for the 26 Bingham McCutchen partners, including ten financial restructuring partners, switching to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld later this month. Such is the size of the investment the Dallas-bred giant has made, with the total number of lawyers set to transfer across London, Hong Kong and Frankfurt expected to reach around 60, the team led by financial restructuring guru James Roome will have to hit the ground running when they transfer in late October. This is, after all, a team with around $50m in annual revenue, by some yardsticks the largest team hire ever executed in the Square Mile.

The move, which Legal Business first revealed online in early September, shifts virtually all of Bingham’s London arm, minus two partners whose futures are undecided.

Legal Business

Bingham’s Hong Kong office looks set to close as Akin Gump pounces again

Bingham’s Hong Kong office looks set to close as Akin Gump pounces again

Bingham McCutchen’s Hong Kong office has been put in a precarious position with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld making a two partner hire to take the number of partners joining the firm from Bingham to 28, while remaining capital markets partner Vincent Sum’s future is unclear.

Transactions partner Mark Fucci and funds partner Anne-Marie Godfrey will join Akin Gump’s Hong Kong office, following in the footsteps of restructuring partner Naomi Moore and corporate duo Matthew Puhar and Charles Rogers.

Fucci focuses on cross-border matters and is plugged in to the transferring Bingham team’s restructuring group spearheaded by James Roome in London. Godfrey advises investment managers on the establishment and regulation of hedge funds and private equity funds.

Last partner standing Vincent Sum, who specialises in capital markets including derivatives and securitisations, is understood to not be joining Akin Gump due to its lack of activity in his practice area.

Sum’s exit would lead to the closure of what was a six-partner office, with lawyers qualified in five jurisdictions including Hong Kong, England and Wales, the US, Australia, and Ireland, in the province just two months ago. The loss would be a blow to Morgan Lewis & Bockius, which is in merger talks with Bingham, as it does not have a Hong Kong office of its own.

The London-led implosion of Bingham’s international office started with a 22-partner exit, with Akin Gump initially securing 18 partners in London, two partners in Frankfurt to open the firm’s first German office and a further two in Hong Kong.

This was swiftly followed by a further four partners making the same switch, a group that included Hong Kong-based Puhar. All 28 partners are expected to join Akin Gump within the coming weeks.

Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith said: ‘Mark and Anne-Marie are terrific practitioners who join a truly exceptional group of lawyers poised to make a tremendous impact on our firm and help strengthen our brand as a global institution.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk